“It was always going to be tough to repeat what I did last year."
Gordon Reid had a 2016 to remember, winning the Paralympic gold, the Australian Open title, and the inaugural Wimbledon men's singles event, and subsequently becoming ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Champion.
The British player followed that up with two singles titles and a string of finals to his name so far in 2017. But despite failing to defend his Grand Slam singles titles, the 25-year-old is relishing the ultra-competitive environment and the challenge of trying to regain the No.1 spot currently held by Argentina's Gustavo Fernandez.
“It was always going to be tough to repeat what I did last year. I struggled at the start of the year and obviously there have been some other players who have been in great form, but I think I’m starting to find my way again and I’m just going to keep working hard to try and regain that form that led me to all that success last year,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to going out to New York for the US Open. We didn’t get the chance to do that last year because of the clash of dates with the Paralympics, but it’s a tournament that I really enjoy and I’m looking forward to playing doubles together there with Alfie (Hewett) for the first time.”
Shortly before this year’s Wimbledon, Reid became the first British athlete and second wheelchair tennis player to be named as UNIQLO Global Brand Ambassador. It is a partnership which the 25-year-old looks upon with immense pride.
“The history with UNIQLO and their Global Brand Ambassadors is a very prestigious one and all their athlete ambassadors are at the top of their sport, so it was a really proud moment for me to join that family and see UNIQLO’s involvement in wheelchair continue to grow,” said Reid.
Kunieda was the first Global Brand Ambassador for UNIQLO and the two players celebrated Reid’s appointment with a special event early in July at UNIQLO’s flagship UK store in Oxford Street, London. Reid and Kunieda have large images of themselves depicted on the walls of the store alongside fellow Global Brand Ambassador and tennis star Kei Nishikori of Japan.
“It goes to show UNIQLO’s fantastic attitude to inclusivity. Me and Shingo are treated in the same way as Kei. You went into the store and there were huge pictures of me, huge pictures of Shingo and huge pictures of Kei all over the store and that doesn’t happen very often with Paralympic athletes,” added Reid.
“The fact that you can go into the flagship store in Oxford Street and see two wheelchair tennis players up on all the walls - it’s something that, not long ago, I never thought I would see.”
Aside from the Grand Slam titles and Paralympic medals that have since become a part of his journey, it’s the social side of the sport that Reid identifies as having had the biggest impact on him.
“In a lot of ways, first of all, wheelchair tennis was a great tool to help with my rehabilitation coming out of hospital,” he admitted. “Not only physically, to help my physical fitness, and gaining the skills for first using a wheelchair.
“But I think one of the best things that’s come out of it for me is the sport’s introduced me to a lot of people who have been inspiring in one way or another or who have been great role models for me in how to live life with a disability to the full and not set yourself any limits.
“That’s one of the best things the sport’s given me. I’ve met some great characters along the way and people who have really helped me through some difficult times in my life.”
Full story can be found on the ITF’s website.